Have you ever heard the story of the pig and the chicken? One of them is committed to your breakfast, and the other one is just involved.
It’s hard to get buy-in for a project when people are only involved – inevitably the projects that they are committed to get the most attention. If there’s any resources left, they get spread across the many projects.
Feedback loops often suffer from a lack of commitment. While many departments are involved – support receives feedback, product managers may solicit it, and marketers receive it – few departments are held accountable for using feedback responsibly.
What does accountability mean?
Accountability means you’re measured on and responsible for results. For example, sales teams are accountable for their leads. If they don’t close a lead, they won’t receive the commission. Even more important, if they aren’t closing deals, they may not keep their job.
Teams that are accountable are committed to improvements, because it’s their responsibility.
Why do you need accountability?
Having someone be accountable means that shit gets done, because their neck is on the line. Without accountability, you tend to run into the bystander effect: a perceived diffusion of responsibility. This effect was originally discovered in 1964 after the murder of Kitty Genovese – despite many witnesses seeing the girl being attacked, no-one stepped forward to help or even sound an alarm.
There’s two reasons for this effect. One, people tend to follow the crowd. So if they don’t see anyone else stepping forward, they don’t think it’s necessary. Secondly, there’s a diffusion of responsibility. Instead of one person feeling the full weight of responsibility to save a life, the responsibility is split between one hundred witnesses, and no one is compelled enough to act.
If the bystander effect can have this effect on witnessing a murder, imagine what it does to a Voice of the Customer program. Everyone can see the feedback coming in, but no one does anything about it. We all just continue on with our workload, thinking someone else is probably dealing with that.
By making one person or team accountable, you reduce the diffusion of responsibility. This can be tough – it’s not always fair to be held solely responsible for a failure. For example: when I worked at Payfirma, the customer support team was put in charge of reducing churn. I remember protesting strongly: sales are selling to the wrong people, the product has missing features, marketing isn’t giving us customer success content!
Sunan Spriggs, the Chief Customer Officer, calmly replied, “Exactly. And those are the things you’re responsible for fixing.” Essentially, it was our bacon on the line. Our customer support team was the very committed pig in this eggs and bacon breakfast. It was tough going, but it forced us to make connections across the various departments to create change. Even if it wasn’t “fair” it was effective.We were committed to reducing churn, so we did.
How do you make a team accountable?
If you agree that committing a team to feedback improvement is important to drive action, you need to make them accountable. There’s two parts to this:
- Choose the right metrics.
If you aren’t measuring the effectiveness of a feedback loop, you will have zero chance of improving it. By setting benchmarks and goals, it’s easy to measure progress.
A few great metrics we’ve seen tracked to measure feedback loops:
- Amount of time spent on customer requests per developer sprint (10% is a good average to aim for)
- % of feedback requests that get incorporated into the product
- % satisfaction of feedback request tickets (tag tickets with “feedback” to track)
- # of customers who give praise after feedback is implemented
- $ of renewals saved by features incorporated
- % of customers adopting a new feature (to complete the feedback loop, you need to have customers aware and using the new feature!)
- Set frequent checkins.
This is where the “involved” people come in. Gather the feedback stakeholders in a formalized process to share the results. Talk about what’s working and what isn’t working. It’s important to socialize successes because it creates a stronger sense of unity. The involved camp is motivated by success, because they want to be associated with something that is working.
By tracking progress consistently, it’s easier to iterate quickly and make noticeable improvements. When you look back a few months down the line, you’ll be amazed at how much effectively your feedback loop operates.
So, who owns the customer feedback cycle?
It doesn’t really matter – but it needs to be someone specific. In product-driven companies, the product management team usually takes on this responsibility. This means building feedback success metrics into performance reviews and dashboards for their team.
But this doesn’t mean that the customer support team is off the hook when it comes to feedback! When they have complementary metrics, you get a cumulative effect of two teams working in harmony towards improvement. For example, support teams could be measured on the satisfaction of tickets dealing with feedback. Perhaps they could be given a quota of setting up five customer interviews per month with Product.